The BJP has emerged as the second biggest party in the recently completed panchayat polls in West Bengal. This is the first time that the BJP has been elected to the gram panchayat level in every district of the state and the CPM slipped to the third position from the second place it occupied the last time panchayat polls were held. This time the BJP has made strong inroads into former Maoist bastions—districts such as Purulia and Jhargram and made its presence felt in every district of the State.
The BJP won around 5,465 (17.1 per cent) gram panchayat seats. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had bagged 64.2 per cent of seats. Due to state sponsored violence and snatching of ballot papers the TMC has manage to win 34.2 per cent panchayat seats uncontested. The independents with 1,741 (5.4 per cent) had managed more seats than the Left Front (1615), which ruled the state for 34 long years. The Congress could bag just 993 seats.
The BJP has done well in tribal-dominated Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore and Bankura, a former Maoist hotbed. In Purulia, the BJP won 638 seats while TMC won 754. It was neck and neck in Jhargram too with the BJP getting 329 and TMC 373 seats. In Bankura, the BJP won 231 seats and TMC 912. The TMC managed 1,457 seats and BJP 352 in West Midnapore.
The BJP’s performance has been better in North Bengal and in Malda, a Muslim majority district and a Congress stronghold. The BJP came second there ahead of Congress and the Left. The BJP won 526 seats while TMC managed 1,080 seats in Malda. The Congress got 379 and the Left 144. In North Bengal districts of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri, the BJP got 268 and 286 seats.
The BJP had won 460 (7.5 per cent) of the 6,125 panchayat Samiti seats. The TMC won 3,598 (58.7 per cent) seats. The CPM was third with 63 seats. Independent candidates won 77 seats.
In Zilla Parishad the BJP performed well. The BJP’s vote share at the gram panchayat level has gone up from 1% to 18%. Noteworthy, the BJP had got 17.2 per cent vote share in West Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It was a major jump from 6.4 per cent votes it had managed in 2009. In 2016 assembly polls, the BJP got 10.16 per cent vote share in the state.
BJP state president Shri Dilip Ghosh expressed satisfaction over the results, saying they were not bad despite facing terror from the TMC goons during the nomination phase. “We would have done much better if our candidates had been allowed to submit their nominations and if the ruling party had not killed democracy by using its goons,’’ he said. “The real game will be played in the Lok Sabha elections and we will show that people of Bengal are with us.”
He said the Collective resistance and anger against the TMC in some of the tribal regions of Jhargram and Purulia was so high that the Trinamool Congress could not even field candidates in some seats and it was not even dare to face the people of those districts. The tribal population supported the BJP, he added.
The three-tier panchayat poll was held in 621 zilla parishad, 6,123 panchayat samiti and 31,802 gram panchayat seats in 20 West Bengal districts on May 14, 2018. Of the total 48,650 seats in gram panchayats, 16,814 went uncontested. There was no contest for 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat samiti seats and in 203 of the 825 zilla parishad seats.
Interacting with the mediapersons State BJP General Secretary Shri Sayantan Basu said despite so much of violence we have won more than 5,000 seats in GP (gram panchayat). Had the elections been free and fair we would have won 50 per cent seats at all the three levels of the panchayat”.
PM Shri Modi also expressed grave concern over the violence during Panchayat polls in West Bengal. He said, “There is one more thing I want to talk about…the scenes from the Panchayat Elections in West Bengal. It was nothing but a murder of democracy. From the nomination stage to the day of polling, where was the spirit of democracy? People were bullied.”
“People were disallowed to file nominations also. It is not only BJP people who suffered. People from all the leading parties except the one that rules Bengal suffered. This is serious. A land as great as West Bengal has to see such sights, it is unfortunate”, noted the PM.
He said that it was not about who won the polls. “All those who are democratic minded, including friends in civil society, they must come together to strengthen democratic spirit. We cannot see things only in partisan terms”, he said.